Banshee Reeks History
Within Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, numerous pre-colonial sites have been found. Most of the artifacts recovered suggest that Native American people were creating and using projectile points, such as arrows and spearheads, in the area. The oldest artifacts are from 6000 BCE, which falls within the Early Archaic Period.
More recent history shows that in 1728, Englishman Robert Carter II acquired an 11,537-acre tract of land from which the Banshee Reeks property was eventually subdivided. His grandson, George Carter, inherited 5,000 acres of this land along Goose Creek, and would develop part of it into Oatlands Plantation.
In 1841, a resident of Oatlands named Jordan B. Luck acquired a 225-acre tract of George Carter’s land for $2,706 (about $66,600 in 2018!). Shortly thereafter, Luck built the stone house now located on Banshee Reeks property (the very same stone house that the Visitor Center is now in). The foundation of the house is made of stone and stucco, and it has a simple gable roof. The original layout of the house was a simple two-story dwelling with a two-room plan and three fireplaces attached to one chimney. The additional portions of the house are a much more modern addition, dating to the mid-1900s. These modernizations and other renovations have enlarged the house to a point where it is no longer considered a good example of a farmhouse of that period. It is also interesting to note that the keystones on the southern exterior are not native to Loudoun County – it is believed they came from the Warrenton area of Fauquier County.
The cooking for the house was done on the fireplace in the basement (currently inaccessible to visitors). Cooking would have been done by enslaved people, and we know from tax assessments that Luck had eleven enslaved people on the property. Their names were Edgar, Charles, Silas, Delia, Jinny, Frances, Emeline, Toby, David, and Eve. Eve had an infant whose name we do not know. There is evidence of living quarters for these people off the southwest corner of the stone house, but it has not yet been extensively researched.
In 1845, Luck acquired another 139 acres of land adjacent to his first purchase, increasing the size of the farm to 364 acres. He used this land mainly to farm sheep and pigs; any agriculture done would have only provided enough to feed the household. Although a gap in the chain of title exists during the mid-nineteenth century, it is possible that Jordan B. Luck may have owned the 364-acre Banshee Reeks property as late as 1853.
The entire 364-acre property was sold at auction in 1882 to John F. Elgin, who already owned 408 acres adjacent to the Luck Farm. From there, the property continued to transfer along a series of private owners. In accordance with the will of Thomas Meloy, who owned the property from 1959 until his death in 1979, the property was put under protective open space easement in 1984. Loudoun County purchased Banshee Reeks in 1991 and established it as a nature preserve in 1999. Since then, it has served as a place for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the beauty of nature.
— Adapted from The Archaeology and History of Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve by Gabrielle Patterson, 2019.
How Did Banshee Reeks Get Its Name?
In the early part of the 19th century, the owner of the farm now known as “Banshee Reeks” was said to be of Irish/Scottish descent. In the Gaelic language, “banshee” is a female spirit and “reeks” refers to hills and dales.
According to the story, one night the farmer went into the town of Leesburg to attend to personal business and also paid a visit to the local saloon. While traveling back to the farm, the wind howled and the animals of the night made much noise. Upon arriving home, the farmer was in such a state of mind that he claimed that he heard a banshee on the reeks. The phrase was altered over the years and the area became known as “Banshee Reeks”.